The Pittsburgh Steelers have given up hope of Le'Veon Bell returning to the team and now expect the star running back to sit out the entire season, new NFL rumors claim.
Bell's extended absence from the team has now stretched through half of the NFL season as he sought a new extended contract with the team. Despite some rumors that Bell could finally return this week and hopeful comments from team owner Art Rooney, a new report from NFL.com claims that the Steelers expect him to stay on the sidelines for the remainder of 2018.
A source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network that Bell is willing to wait it out so he can become a free agent in 2019. Bell has a deadline of Tuesday to sign his franchise tender or take a one-year deal with the team or else he forfeits his playing eligibility for the rest of the season, but it appears he has no plans to arrive before then.
This will almost assuredly mark the end of Bell's tenure with the team. As the report noted, it would be very expensive for the Steelers to try keeping Le'Veon Bell beyond this year.
"The Steelers could franchise tag Bell for a third time in 2019, but he would be tagged at the quarterback salary number, not the lower number he was tagged at this year, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Rooney said on Thursday the team will eventually address that issue."It is already expensive for Bell to sit out the entire 2018 season. As CBS Pittsburgh reported, he will forfeit $14.5 million in salary if he does not return to play at all this year and has already given up more than $8 million through his absence so far.
Though Le'Veon Bell played a huge role in the Steelers offense, the team has been able to surpass his production from the surprising James Conner. The second-year player, who had just 32 carries for 144 yards as a rookie, already has more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage this year, including 771 rushing yards. He has a total of 11 touchdowns.But the Pittsburgh Steelers could be without Conner for at least the near future. As The Sporting News noted, the running back has entered the concussion protocol after taking a big hit in the team's win over the Panthers in Thursday Night Football.
Le'Veon Bell has given no official indication if he plans to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers.